afrol News, 25 April - Chevron Nigeria Ltd. again has been involved in a seizure of one of its offshore oil-drilling rigs. An estimated 40 youthful invaders from a nearby neglected community affected by the oil production were in control of Chevron's rig for four days, holding 43 hostages. They demanded jobs.
According to a release by Chevron Nigeria Ltd. spokesman Sola Omole, originally 88 oil rig workers, including Nigerians and expatriates, were hold hostage between Sunday and today, but 45 of these were released earlier. Today, the youths released the remaining hostages. The rig, located about eight kilometres offshore Escravos in River Niger's oil-rich delta, was "forcefully boarded" by youths from Ilaje communities in Ondo State.
The release of their last 43 remaining hostages went peacefully and the youths left the platform on Thursday morning whit none of the employees harmed. Chevron Nigeria declined to say whether the company had met the youths' demand that they be given jobs by the firm.
The youths were staging a protest, demanding contract jobs on the company's rigs. Negotiations however seem to have been fruitless. "They also barricaded the helicopter landing deck on the rig, thereby cutting off access to the rig and those held hostage," spokesman Omole said.
According to a statement by Omole yesterday, "all entreaties by the company for a dialogue with them have so far been rebuffed." He added that the company had contacted "the relevant government agencies" on the incident. Omole further added Chevron had contacted community leaders in the area, including the traditional ruler of Ilajeland, Oba Mafimisebi IV, and asked them to intervene towards the release of the hostages, the evacuation of the rig and a peaceful resolution of the situation. The conflict was finally resolved peacefully today, although the conditions for the resolution remain unknown.
This is by far the first incident between angry local communities and Chevron Nigeria. In May 1998, 120 to 200 young protesters took over Chevron’s Parabe oil platform about 15 kilometres off the Niger delta. The unarmed youths staged a protest over environmental damage caused by oil spills, the disruption of communities' water supply, the ruining of local fishing and farming trades and the failure to employ locals.
The 1998 incident ended in a tragedy, although there are conflicting versions to what actually happened. Spokesman Omole first confirmed that the protesters were unarmed, that Chevron helicopters flew government troops to the platform and did not mention hostages. Later, the company changed its statement, claiming "Chevron does not own helicopters and boats in the Delta region," and that its employees were "forcibly held hostage, intimidated and physically abused."
When government troops arrived the platform, shooting began after one protester tried to grab a gun from the police. In the end, two protesters were killed, 30 others wounded, and 11 arrested, jailed for three weeks, and then released without explanation.
Since this incident, Nigerian military and police allegedly have continued to attack the villages of the protesters. Also, protesting communities have started to routinely kidnap workers of the oil companies operating in the area to protest the environmental stress and economic neglect.
Chevron, on the other hand, claims it is strongly committed to its Nigerian host communities and hopes "that a peaceful solution through dialogue between the communities and the government can be reached." The company maintains it has "invested heavily in Nigeria's future through a number of education and community development projects" and that it only engages in "safe, environmentally sound operations."
Sources: Based on Chevron,
Nigerian press and afrol archives